Harvick still in title picture, but faces tall task on Sunday

Leave a comment

Kevin Harvick is still mathematically in contention for the Sprint Cup championship. But facing a 40-point gap to championship leader Jimmie Johnson with just two races left, he admitted Friday at Phoenix International Raceway that hoping for problems for both Johnson and Matt Kenseth (second, -7 points) “is asking for all but a miracle.”

Nonetheless, despite the circumstances, Harvick also said that he couldn’t fret over his Chase – or his season altogether.

“We knew we needed to win at least one race in the Chase, and we accomplished that. It just happens to be a year where you needed to win a couple or three races in the Chase and finish in the Top-5 a lot,” he said before qualifying ninth for Sunday’s Advocare 500 at PIR.

“It’s not been anything to complain about. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and try to win one of these or both of the last two races.”

With three previous wins at PIR and a relatively solid pace through practice this weekend, Harvick could be a threat in tomorrow’s 312-lap event. But if Johnson and Kenseth put in good days as well, it won’t really matter in regards to the championship.

There’s no doubt Harvick will keep fighting until he’s officially done. But during his Friday presser at PIR, he was asked who had the edge between Johnson and Kenseth if he had to take himself out of the title picture.

His reply referenced the unpredictability of the duel between the two men, noting Kenseth finishing second at Martinsville (a place where Johnson has won eight times) and Johnson scoring his first win of the year on a 1.5-mile oval last weekend at Texas.

“It’s a crapshoot at this point…It’s just a matter of who hits it on a particular weekend,” he said. “Obviously, this race track can play a lot of havoc on track position and things happening and [you] get caught up in something, but I think performance-wise, it’s a draw at this point.”

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

1 Comment

With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.